"There are few books on the Israel/Palestine issue that seem as hopeful to me as this one. First of all, we find ourselves in the hands of a formerly Zionist Israeli who honors his people, loves his homeland, respects and cherishes his parents, other family members and friends, and is, to boot, the son of a famous general whose activities during Israel’s wars against the Palestinian people helped cause much of their dislocation and suffering. Added to this, long after Miko Peled, the writer, has left the Special Forces of the Israeli army and moved to Southern California to teach karate, a beloved niece, his sister’s daughter, Smadar, a young citizen of Jerusalem, is killed by Palestinians in a suicide bombing. Right away we think: Goodness. How is he ever going to get anywhere sane with this history? He does.
I don't remember when I heard Miko Peled talk about the Israeli/Palestinian “conflict” but I was moved by a story he was telling (probably on Youtube) about his mother. I am sensitive to mothers, who never, it seems to me, get enough credit for their impact on society and the world, and so I was eager to hear what this Israeli peace activist, Karate master, and writer had to say about his. He was telling the story of the Nakba from his mother's point of view. Nakba is Arabic for the "Catastrophe" that happened to Palestinians when the Israeli army, in lethal force, invaded their communities in 1947-48 and drove them, in their hundreds of thousands, out of their homes; frequently looting and/or blowing up homes, but if the houses were beautiful and/or well situated, taking them for themselves. As the invaders moved in, the coffee, Peled was informed, was sometimes still on the table, still hot, as the inhabitants were forced to flee. His mother, Zika, was offered one of these confiscated houses. She refused it. It was unbearable to her that she might be sitting sipping coffee in the home of another woman who was now, with her frightened or wounded family, sitting, hungry and miserable, in a refugee camp.
What is the prevailing feeling, having read this moving book, given how determined our testosterone driven world seems to be to make continuous, endless war, and, perhaps, to blow all of us up in one? Possibly soon. I feel immense relief, and gratitude. Someone(s) must take responsibility for being the grown-ups of our human Universe. There must be people, in all walks of life, who decide: Enough's enough; there are children here. That even if, in your derangement and pain, or your greed and covetousness, you do me grievous harm, even to the taking of the life of my child, I still choose to see you and your people as human; though perhaps distorted, warped and tortured almost beyond human recognition. I refuse to turn away from the effort to talk to you, frightened though I might be. Whenever possible, I will not refuse to make friends.
Miko Peled, at first terrified of reaching out to Palestinians because of the false reports he was, since childhood, given of them, realizes the insanity of remaining enemies of a people he has had no opportunity to truly know. What he discovers energizes and encourages him. He begins to understand the danger inherent in living in ignorance of the so-called "other" and begins to realize he would be a far different, a far less open and loving person, had he not, despite his fears, freed himself in this way. His freedom to be at ease with the very people he was taught to hate is, of course, a bonus for his own children and for the next generation of Israelis and Palestinians."